Pet peeves of community life: Flip side of the upside

At a recent house meeting (we hold them twice a month at BHFH), everyone was invited to write a couple of pet peeves about living in the house and place them in a basket.

Some of the beefs that made their way into the discussion:

  • Overloaded dishracks
  • Crumbs around the toaster
  • Interrupted conversations
  • Lights left on in empty common rooms

Sound like any household you may have been part of at some point?

roomOne of mine : “More a puzzle than a peeve — how to raise questions or issues with staff without feeling like walking on egg shells.”

One of Carol’s: “When people bring a lot of negativity or irritability into public spaces.”

In some ways, it’s strange that I’d be annoyed by the staff issue. I’ve felt from the start of our time here that one of the best things about BHFH — differentiating it from most coop living situations — is the work of staff who are paid to serve and lead a community they’re also part of. Continue reading

On the benefits of a Saturday in community

I have no idea what I was thinking when I decided to update our eight year-old iMac to the Yosemite operating system. Midway through the install, the screen went blank and there appeared to be nobody at all home — and no apparent way to ring the door bell.

imac 2Googling the problem showed many others had suffered the same fate, without any clear path to recovery. I really needed that machine in prepping for the teaching I’m doing this week in Vienna, but didn’t have the time to haul it down Boylston to the Apple store.

And then I spotted Sumner, a former housie, sitting in the kitchen. Sumner is a programmer who continues helping his former housemates in all sorts of ways — honchoing our workdays, tweaking our new high speed wireless and more. So much so that I was reluctant to impose on him for volunteer tech support on a Saturday morning.

“No problem,” he said when I went ahead and asked anyway. With his phone he discovered a possible solution that had eluded me. “But hold down your hopes,” he cautioned as I headed upstairs muttering Hail Marys and hoping, despite his cautions, that the old beast might somehow come back from the dead.¬† Continue reading

Engaging strangers at dinner: Not everyone’s cup of tea

house dinner 2I’ve learned a lot from the Myers-Briggs, especially when administered and explored by my favorite former clinical psychologist. As an ENFP, one of my major take-aways is how differently I recharge my batteries than, say, someone whose profile begins with an I instead of an E. In Myers-Briggs terms, the difference between extroverts and introverts is a bit more nuanced than the popular understanding of the terms. In brief, it’s all about where we draw our energy: from interaction with groups or from more intimate, one-on-one or solitary settings.

Which brings me to the dinner table at Beacon Hill Friends House. When I hear we have guests for dinner, my ears perk up. I hope I end up sitting close enough to them at our long table to find out a bit about them and answer questions about the house. I also realize this is not a reaction shared by all. Continue reading

Just enough chefs in the kitchen

chefs edited

Nora, Jared, Ali, Carol & Clarissa. Plus the mystery chef. Click photo for better view.

The $331-a-month we each pay for food at BHFH (rent is $628 per person) gets us Sunday-Thursday dinners prepared by Myles, our resident chef, plus a fully-stocked kitchen we can raid for other meals and snacks. On most Friday and Saturday evenings that leaves housies fending for themselves. But sometimes, like last night, something more organized happens. It began with a 1:39 p.m. email from Carol, alerting her 20 housemates that she’d be cooking a chicken pot pie and a veggie pie and that Clarissa would be making a salad.

Friday night dinner

Friday dinner at Beacon Hill Friends House

Nora volunteered the bean soup that her folks learned to make when the family lived in Nicaragua (Witness for Peace), and Ali promised apple crisp with help from Jared. The rest of us did stuff like buying the chicken and removing meat from the bones, plus set up and clean up. ¬†Main task for the dozen of us at the table: Enjoying a great dinner. When I asked for a show of hands to line up a photo of the evening’s chefs, the first one in the air was Leila’s. Who knows what she may have thrown in the pot?

 

Dinner for 21

Chefs need a day off like the rest of us, so there’s an occasional opportunity for housies to fill in for Myles at BHFH. Carol took a turn last night and prepared a special meal of chicken, pasta, tofu loaf, bread, hummus, asparagus, fruit salad and (thanks to fellow housie, Annie) some pretty amazing baklava.

My contribution was limited to chopping what I was told and dishcrew, so I’ll claim some objectivity in declaring it one successful evening!

dinner

 

The changing roles of a downsized life

As we downsize, I realize that giving up certain things also involves giving up certain roles. At Christmas time we packed up my mother’s dishes (which had been her mother’s) and Bill’s mother’s dishes and took them to Maleita, our oldest daughter. Handing over the dishes as well as moving out of the big house made it clear to me that I wouldn’t be hosting the holiday meals. It’s a role I’ve loved – gathering whatever family and friends were available and enjoying good food and good companionship.

And it’s not just the holiday meals – we loved providing hospitality to people from all over. We were blessed with a house big enough to have people stay. Maybe because my work has often involved intangibles I love the concreteness and sensuality of cooking for people – the colors and scents and tastes, even the feel of stirring a risotto or kneading bread. I love figuring out what people enjoy eating and serving them that. I have to admit to a certain sadness at giving that up. Continue reading